Life’s a journey, especially when you’re a seventeen-year old high schooler obsessed with Yu-Gi-Oh. I mean, there’s a pretty long way to go if that’s your starting point, right?
Allow Me to Set the Scene.
When I was in 12th grade, I wasn’t exactly the most motivated kid. I mean, there were things I wanted to accomplish and experience, but they generally weren’t related to school or any possible careers paths. Normally they were explicitly related to hanging out with friends (an activity that largely consisted of playing with and trading Yu-Gi-Oh cards in nearby McDonald’s or Taco Bells) or figuring out ways I could avoid the pains of growing up (i.e., anything involving school and possible career paths).
Yes, I was sure I was on the right track back then—basically clinging to any idea that I deemed separate from the traditional school-college-work life path I dreaded so much.
One day a plan dawned on me. A scheme that encompassed the three things that were most important to me at the time: my friends, Yu-Gi-Oh, and a way to live an alternative lifestyle. The plan was simple: my friends and I were going to take our young, optimistic and (it pains me to say it) naive views on life to an exotic, foreign land halfway across the world.
We were going to Tokyo, Japan.
(In my mind, at least)
Perhaps the best part of the whole thing though, was that the only way we were coming back to the U.S., was if we Dueled our way home.
Yes, you read that correctly—Dueled our way home. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Dueling (uppercase “D” required) is nerd terminology for playing Yu-Gi-Oh, a trading card game complete with monster and spell and trap cards. Each player is known as a Duelist and starts off with 8,000 Life Points, the object of the game being to reduce the other player’s Life Points to zero—
I’m going to shut up about this now before it gets too nerdy in here.
My idea though, was that we would buy plane tickets, fly to the exotic land of Japan, and earn our way back home solely through our abilities as Duelists.
Okay, here’s a good spot to pause.
Laugh all you want. I get it—this idea is ridiculous, clearly. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. I mean really, the amount of money you could make Dueling the average Joe on the street (assuming random people in Japan actually Duel in alleyways like on the TV show) would be pretty much nothing.
You could maybe get away taking your opponent’s rarest card after a hard-fought victory or even banishing their soul to the Shadow Realm and charging a hefty ransom for its return, but either way, it’s a pretty tough racket.
No, there’s very little to be gained fiscally outside of tournaments, and to place in a major competition your deck needs to be in tip-top shape, probably incorporating one of the more effective deck themes. But these pre-made decks can be very formulaic, lacking the sense of creativity that made this game so much fun for me. It didn’t seem to require as much strategy to win—not as much as creating your own strategy using only your favorite cards did. That was the way I always liked to play, even if I didn’t win as much as other people.
Okay, let’s skip forward to 2018.
So, if the title didn’t give it away, spoiler alert: We never went to Japan.
But, even if we had, we likely wouldn’t have made any money at all by Dueling (still not giving up the capitalization thing). Also, I wonder if Tokyo would’ve lived up to my expectations as a place where I could’ve lived a carefree lifestyle, enjoying bright city lights each day and a sense of excitement over the idea of being surrounded by a language so different than my own. Some of that I do think I would’ve found—the bright, extravagant city and exotic sounds of a foreign language, but in general, I know the dream of a carefree life without responsibilities would’ve eluded me.
Okay, I get it—Dueling isn’t a real profession, no matter what the TV show tells me.
As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve learned to be increasingly okay with the fact that life isn’t always a perfect dream scenario.
I mean, life’s a journey after all—you have to work hard every day to give it the meaning you want.
Always be learning and and on the look out for new things that interest you—if it feels like you should be pursuing something, maybe you should be. These types of things you feel in your gut, and I’ve always believed that a gut feeling is something to be followed.
So while we didn’t make it to Japan (or even the airport. My friends clearly had better judgement than me back then), I think that deep down, I knew it wouldn’t satisfy me. Just because you don’t want to face the responsibility of growing up doesn’t mean you can pack up and leave it behind. The only way to live the life you want is to build it, and that means owning your responsibility.
It means embarking on the journey and making life your own.
So while I wouldn’t call myself a Duelist anymore, I know that I’m still playing at least one game my own way. The game of life is a journey and it always will be. Plus, each morning I wake up not permanently banished to the Shadow Realm, I know it’s going to be a good day.